RELIVE the dying days of rave culture with Beats, a lovingly realised requiem for mid-Nineties hedonism with a suitably pulsating soundtrack.
Aretha Franklin belts out gospel classics in concert movie Amazing Grace, while Lily Collins is the underwhelming common thread in two wildly contrasting biopics.
Amazing Grace (U) 86mins, out now
ARETHA FRANKLIN belts out the gospel songs of her youth in this decades-delayed, no-frills concert movie recording by Sydney Pollack over two nights in 1972.
Set aside, for a moment, the astonishing performance by one of the greatest artists ever to put voice to vinyl. There is plenty else to enjoy, from the pleasingly grainy visuals and unforced chatter between songs to the comfortably charismatic compering of gospel king James Cleveland and the terrible sequin-studded outfits of the Southern California Community Choir.
As for the music, well… this collection of songs became the top-selling gospel record of all time. And it’s obvious why. Franklin is extraordinary, delivering a spine-tingling, transcendent performance.
Essential viewing for anyone with a pulse and a passing interest in music. Plus a great way of turning new listeners on to Aretha’s effortless majesty.
Tolkein(12A) 111mins, out Monday
THIS sumptuous but insubstantial biopic about the Lord Of The Rings author works hard to tie the horrors of the Somme to the wonders of Middle Earth — although Tolkein himself explicitly rejected suggestions his most famous work was an allegory for totalitarianism.
It is nicely shot, with evocative scenes of the young John Ronald’s woodland antics, some powerful moments from the trenches and a couple of haunting images.
But the romantic elements are tepid, with Nicholas Hoult a non-presence as the adult author and Lily Collins even more underwhelming as the vaguely elfin pianist with whom he is inexplicably smitten.
Derek Jacobi provides spirited support — and the film’s best moments — as Tolkein’s mentor at Oxford University but Colm Meaney is not given enough to do.
Still, this milquetoast offering is infinitely better than the horribly bloated Hobbit movies.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (15) 105mins, out Monday
THIS was sold as the story of the women taken in by serial killer Ted Bundy but it really isn’t. Zac Efron dominates every scene as the misleadingly affable maniac — though such care is taken to stop him seeming too likeable, Efron rarely comes across as anything other than creepy.
At the heart of the movie is his relationship with long-term girlfriend Liz Kendall — but thanks to a watery turn by Lily Collins (again), their mutual dependency is the least convincing part of it. Until the unexpectedly powerful finale, Collins spends most of her time wibbling meekly into a phone.
Kaya Scodelario is stronger as Kendall’s sort-of love rival Carole Ann Boone, while John Malkovich exacts some wry moments as the judge helping to stoke Bundy’s dark celebrity.
Intriguing rather than essential but if the goal was to rid Efron of his High School Musical image once and for all — and his executive-producer credit underlines Efron’s enthusiasm for the project — you have to say it’s mission accomplished.
The Fight (12A) 90mins, out Monday
JESSICA HYNES’s directorial debut is clearly an intensely personal project — if not entirely successful. She plays Tina, the care-home worker and mother of three for whom boxing is an outlet from the school bullies to burnt fruit strudel.
Hynes certainly captures the everyday stresses of family life, while making the brave choice to have Tina a largely unsympathetic character, clearly troubled and difficult in her own right.
MOST READ IN TV & SHOWBIZ
With meditative, dreamlike sequences breaking up the kitchen-sink melodrama, It’s an odd concoction that never quite feels grounded in reality,
There is plenty to admire, especially the performances from Shaun Parkes as Hynes’ husband Mick — anything but the archetypal deadbeat dad — Sally Phillips and Liv Hill, the breakout teen star of last year’s Jellyfish. Anita Dobson is genuinely chilling, meanwhile, as Hynes’ abusive, self-pitying mother.
But there are too many competing narratives, while the boxing metaphor ends up feeling crowbarred-in. It’s entirely superfluous to the bigger battles fought on screen.
- GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]